Wardrobe Essentials: The Foundations

For the first five or six years of my bra-wearing-life, I wore the wrong bra size. I went to Victoria’s Secret and got a “fitting” (using that term loosely) and wore these little skimpy bras which gave no support and were too large in the ribcage, creating some lovely bulges on my back. Then one day I read an article online about the importance of getting a proper bra fitting by a professional (i.e. someone who does bras for their career). So I marched on down to Bloomingdale’s and found out I was not a 36D like I thought but a 32F (!) and discovered the beauty and support of a well-fitting bra.

Finding the proper “foundations” for your wardrobe can literally make everything you wear look more tailored and expensive. And you’ll feel absolutely fabulous.

The Essential Foundations

1. Several Well-fitting bras. One in each black and nude. It is also good to have a well-fitting sports bra (Lululemon’s Ta-ta Tamer is excellent for running) as well as a deep plunge bra for evening dresses. You don’t need to have twenty bras, just three well-fitting bras will serve you better. Just remember the golden rule for bras: replace them every three-to-six months since they get a lot of wear. I was taught to buy a ribcage size that is supportive on the largest clasp and too-tight on the smallest – that way as the bra stretches with wear, you can tighten the bra with the smaller clasps.

Favorite Bra Brands: Wacoal, Natori

2. Spanx. Some may disagree with me on this but I think having spanx for special occasions and tight skirts can be a god-send. Having smooth fitting clothing and a streamlined panty line will always be classy. Even if wiggling into spanx can be less than classy.

3. Camisoles. For layering, lounging around the house and for adding a little mystery to that low-cut evening gown.

4. Seamless underwear. I am a huge fan of the lacie thongs from Victoria’s Secret! If you haven’t tried them, do – they work fabulously even with my tightest pants.

5. Tights. I know colored tights are big right now but I tend to gravitate towards the classics. Good basics include nude, sheer black and solid black. I’ve tried expensive brands (DKNY) and cheap ones but my favorites right now are the Nordstrom brand. Does anyone know a good brand for tights? I’m always looking for value since I have to wear these so often to work.

What foundations do you use?

Ashley

Advertisements

Lifevesting’s First Guest Post: Wardrobe Essentials – Dark Wash Jeans

Today, Lifevesting is doing its first guest post over at leahmariev’s fabulous blog. If you haven’t checked out her posts yet, you must! She has fabulous ideas about DIY projects and delicious recipes – I always feel so inspired after stopping at her page.

Check out my Wardrobe Essential: The Dark Wash Jean guest post here: http://leahmariev.com/2012/01/12/wardrobe-essentials-by-ashley-at-lifevesting/

J Brand Cigarette Leg Jeans

What’s your favorite way to wear jeans?

Ashley 

5PFWM: Winter 2011/12

On November 22nd I wrote a post about the 5 Piece French Wardrobe Method (5PFWM) which is a way of building a quality wardrobe without being completely overwhelmed by choices. The whole theory is that every season you should pick five pieces you would like to invest in to build up your wardrobe. I think subscribing to this method is a huge Lifevestment simply because it forces you to concentrate on what your wardrobe needs and to find quality (not quantity) to fill the void.
 
Here are some pictures of my Fall 2011 5PFWM pieces. To re-cap, I added (1) a classic Anne Klein trench coat with single-breasted buttons, storm flaps and an a-line flair, (2) a black-and-white patterned wrap dress from Eliza J, (3) a velvet peplum blazer from Winter Kate, (4) a basic black sweater and (5) waterproof booties from Aquatalia (so in love with these boots)!
 

My Fall 2011 5PFWM loot

Trench Coat, Patterned Wrap Dress, Velvet Peplum Blazer

My absolute favorite addition from the fall season was my Aquatalia ‘Royal’ booties. They are so comfortable and the suede is so luxurious! They were a gift from Ian for Christmas and are the best investment shoe I own.
 
Aren’t they gorgeous (can you tell I am crushing on these boots)?
 

Aquatalia 'Royal' booties

They have a cute plaid interior (this photo doesn't do it justice)

Aquatalia makes a fabulous boot

These boots have me absolutely convinced (as if I wasn’t already) that wardrobe essentials will last so much longer if you invest in quality. A good mantra to remember is: Quality is always worth the price (though a high price isn’t always indicative of quality). I really tried to keep that in mind when picking my Winter wardrobe additions.
 

My Winter 2012 5PFWM includes:

1. An Alexander McQueen Silk Skull Scarf in Black/Blue. I have lusted after this scarf for a long time – to me it’s as versatile as a Burberry scarf. And the Black/Blue combination will work perfectly with jeans or a black suit.

McQueen Silk Skull Scarf

2. This fabulous Pleated Jersey Dress from Issa. I have always wanted a green dress and on my bucket list I did promise myself I would buy a nice designer dress with all my own money. Isn’t the cut so interesting? Plus this is dressy enough to wear to a party or wedding but the jersey fabric makes it easy to wear all-day at the office too. LOVE!

Issa's Pleated Jersey Dress, available at Net-A-Porter

3. A pair of well-tailored skinny jeans. J Brand makes the best for my body but I would suggest trying on a few brands before purchasing to make sure the fit is right (not one likes ‘wrinkly-knee’ skinny jeans).

J Brand Cigarette Leg Jeans

4. An L.K. Bennett Davina Dress is another investment piece which I have had my eye on for some time. I know this is my SECOND dress on a short list but a red dress is such a classic and L.K. Bennett really makes quality clothing. Plus the cut on the Davina is so flattering and timeless.

L.K. Bennett's Davina Dress in "Lipstick"

5. Cole Haan ‘Air Violet’ Patent Pumps in Black. These beautiful pumps actually contain Nike Air comfort technology which would make them extremely versatile and comfortable for all-day wear. Not to mention that black patent is such a wardrobe staple!
 

Cole Haan 'Air Violet' Patent Pump at Nordstroms

 What are you looking to add to your wardrobe this winter?

Ashley

Wardrobe Essentials: The Little Black Dress (LBD)

How do you even begin to talk about why the Little Black Dress (LBD) is a wardrobe staple? It is versatile. It is chic. It is wearable and figure-flattering on every body. It is easy to find and care for. It hasn’t gone out of style in almost a century.

The LBD IS the wardrobe essential.

Originally made “en vogue” by Coco Chanel in the early 20th century as women yearned for more practical clothing, the LBD became Chanel’s most recognized contribution to fashion.

Since its appearance, this staple has made many famous appearances:

Princess Diana’s LBD (above) actually managed to steal the spotlight from her then-husband Prince Charles’ publically admitted extramarital affairs that same night.

The LBD is everyone’s confidence booster and ultimate comfort piece all wrapped into one. Whether you’re single, married, divorced, a student, a professional, a stay-at-homer or a fashionista, a LBD is a vital piece of artillery to have in your wardrobe arsenal (because let’s face it – the LBD is part of a woman’s weaponry).

What to Look for when buying a LBD

1. Fit. I know I almost always put this as the first tip when buying a wardrobe essential but that is because it is the most vital when investing in staples. That dress make look fabulous on the hanger but the most important thing to see is if it will look fabulous on you. Closely examine a potential addition to your wardrobe and pay attention to how the garment fits you on all sides. Make sure the dress is flattering and accentuates elements of yourself that you want to highlight. If the piece doesn’t fit perfectly can it be tailored (and more importantly: will you take it to be tailored)? Don’t forget to figure tailoring expenses into the dress price.

2. Quality. A LBD is something you will likely wear hundreds of times so take a moment and examine the stitching, the seams and the hem. Make sure everything is straight were it should be: an uneven hem is attractive on no one.

3. Details. The details are what will make your LBD special so look for something that really speaks to you. A few years ago I found my perfect LBD at Banana Republic: it had an illusion wrap effect thanks to some well sewn pleats around the waist. Pleats, wrap effects, belts and ruffles can make a LBD really wow: just be sure the details aren’t going to date the dress in five years. Simple and small details are the best if you are looking for something timeless.

4. Strapless vs. Straps. I tend to only buy dresses with straps simply because they are more work-appropriate but a strapless LBD can be the perfect party outfit:

5. Fabric. I think there are two fabrics which make the best LBDs: a wool-blend (for winter, but make sure it isn’t itchy) and a jersey. Jersey dresses are absolutely fabulous because they are figure flattering (unless the jersey is super-thin which is unattractive on every body type) and they don’t wrinkle making them perfect to travel with. A wool-blend has some structure but is still comfortable and warm. But LBDs are made in every fabric so just remember to examine how the fabric fits you and whether it is comfortable and easy to care for.

6. Length. If you are looking for something timeless look for a knee-length LBD: almost all other lengths, from maxi to mini, are easily dated after a year or two. That said, I have an Elie Tahari black maxi which I practically lived in all summer so just be sure the length you choose compliments your lifestyle.

How to wear a LBD

The best way to wear a LBD is with color – every color looks fabulous with black. The LBD is like a blank canvas so have fun with your accessories and enjoy the confidence boost from looking chic. A great look for a holiday party is a LBD with a sequin jacket or belt and some fabulous heels.

What’s your favorite way to wear a LBD?

Ashley

P.s. I found this fabulous paperdoll set of LBDs – wouldn’t this be a fabulous holiday gift for the budding fashionista on your list?

Supplemental Reading:

http://www.coolbeanmommas.com/2011/04/little-black-dress.html

http://apieceoftoastblog.com/a-piece-of-toast/2011/11/17/black-dress.html

Wardrobe Essentials: The Black Blazer

Old Navy Black Blazer

Why is it that so many modern women’s clothing essentials were born from menswear? When I wrote my piece on trench coats I remember asking myself this same question. I mean what wasn’t realistic about a turn-of-the-century woman’s wardrobe? Corsets, impractical fabrics, impossible-to-move-in-skirts, restrictive cages socially, politically and fashionably… what wasn’t to love?

I kid, I kid…

Historical fashions are wonderfully romantic but the modern woman, thanks to some nudging by Coco Chanel, craves a more accessible, practical and yet equally chic wardrobe. And with that the black blazer was born. With small adjustments this closet staple is updated from season to season and has been interpreted by countless designers. Zippers, pockets, flaps, lapels, sequins, buttons all help to make no two black blazers quite alike. The key is to find one that echos your distinctive style while performing the heavy double-duty of being a life-long staple.

The Daring Coco Chanel

What to Look for When Buying a Black Blazer

1. Fit. I am partial to blazers that create an hourglass shape but a slouchy boyfriend blazer can really amp up a weekend ensemble. The key is to find a coat that fits you and boosts your confidence, as with all wardrobe essentials.

2. Fabric. Black blazers come in a variety of practical and impractical fabrics. My best advice here would be to find something you can machine wash time and time again and the fabric will maintain its shape. A plus: a comfy, non-starchy fabric.

3. Embellishments, accoutrements, lengths and details. Similar to coats blazers have more choices than you can imagine in terms of details: double-breasted vs. single breasted, three-button, single-button or zipper?, pockets vs. no-pockets, Sequins or velvet vs. minimalism? Deciding which will work with your wardrobe is an important element to think about prior to investing in this staple.

4. Purpose. This part will help you decide on what you should look for in terms of #3 – is the purpose of the blazer to be a chic weekend topper or is it for the office? I’m partial to the black blazers you can pair with everything (all-purpose) but I couldn’t resist when I found a holiday party worthy velvet blazer.

5. Quality. This is a component I look for in every wardrobe essential. Make sure you’re getting what you pay for: inspect the seams, stitching and lining for imperfections or poor craftsmanship.

6. Patience. Finding the right blazer for your body type/style/budget can be a challenge so be patient. Don’t buy a black blazer that isn’t what you were looking for – trust that the perfect one is out there and wait!

Long One-Button Blazer

How to Wear a Black Blazer

Black blazers are sooooo simple to style and that is what makes them a staple. Pairing a blazer with a delicious dress can help turn an evening dress into a day dress. And let’s not forget how easy the black blazer with jeans look is to pull-off on weekends.

What’s your favorite way to wear a black blazer?

Ashley

P.s. Looking to find a more feminine version of this staple? Victoria’s Secret does a gorgeous peplum black blazer:

Victoria's Secret Peplum Blazer

I bought this blazer back in August and it instantly became my favorite – the peplum helps create a fabulous hourglass shape. I would highly recommend adding this piece to your Christmas List!

Further Reading:

How Celebs Wear Black Blazers

Wardrobe Essentials: The Wrap Dress

Diane Von Furstenburg Wrap Dress

The wrap dress, introduced by Diane Von Furstenberg (love her!) in 1972, epitomizes the liberty women were embracing in the 70s and was a beautiful marriage of practicality and sensuality. Designed with a woman’s natural curves in mind, the wrap dress flatters every figure and comes in a variety of shades and patterns.

Wrap dresses have made a serious comeback since the late 90s. Remember how Kate Middleton‘s simple navy wrap dress instantly became one of the most famous dresses of the 21st century?

Kate Middleton's Issa Wrap Dress

Christina Applegate even sports one in ‘Anchorman‘:

Christina Applegate in Anchorman

Wrap dresses can transform any body (especially curvier bodies) with their belted waist creating a feminine hourglass shape. These dresses transition beautifully from day to evening and are incredibly comfortable not matter how long you wear them for (not to mention you’ll feel like a million bucks).

What to look for when buying a wrap dress

1. Fit. Be sure to find the right wrap dress for your body. Try it on before buying and critically examine how you look from all angles: does the wrap front sit alright along your bust? Is the hem straight? Is the wrap located at the smallest part of your waist? Wrap dresses are meant to be fitted but not be Saran wrap so make sure you have some wiggle-room.

Ruffle-Trim Wrap Dress from Forever 21

2. Variety. Wrap dresses add spice and color to any wardrobe. They come in hundreds of patterns (thank you Diane Von Furstenburg) and styles for every season. Use this wardrobe essential as an excuse to liven up your closet and live more colorfully. Many wrap dresses come with fun and interesting details such as ruffles and asymmetrical hem lines.

Karoo Spruce Cashmere Wrap Dress

3. Fabric. Cotton is the most traditional and versatile wrap dress fabric but silk can be a gorgeous evening alternative (if you’re willing to have it dry-cleaned). Wool or cashmere make wonderful winter fabric choices. Just be sure to choose something wrinkle-free (a wrinkle-free wrap dress is a perfect vacation staple).

4. Length (both dress-length and sleeve-length). Knee-length is the most traditional but I have seen some fantastic wrap maxi dresses recently. For sleeves long and 3/4 length are the classic lengths but for summer opt for a shorter-sleeve.

5. Color. Steer clear of having too many wrap dresses in neutrals. Wrap dresses are the easiest way to color your wardrobe – they come in almost every hue imaginable and are so versatile. A red wrap-dress would be perfect for the holidays and a pastel one would be perfect for spring and summer.

How to Wear a Wrap Dress

If you choose the right fit and fabric for your body, a wrap dress is the ultimate confidence booster (prepare to unconsciously stand straighter and smile more). Because they come in a vast array of colors, patterns and fabrics you can find one to suit almost every occasion – even Sunday afternoon grocery shopping. One easy way to take a wrap dress from day-to-night is by pairing it with a blazer during the day and then a shawl at night.

Ashley

P.s. The wrap dress silhouette translates well into other clothing staples such as sleek tops and coats so look for unique wrap details when investing in other wardrobe essentials. I found this fabulous wrap coat by DeNovo Style on Etsy:

DeNovo Style Wrap Coat

Wardrobe Essentials: The Trench Coat

A Burberry Trench

Building a wardrobe takes time, some investigation and a lot of trial-and-error. The wonderful thing about the ideal wardrobe is that it is unique to the person wearing it. But building a working wardrobe with longevity and pizzazz can be a daunting task – the best place to start is with some core essentials to build on. The modern trench coat is one of the best essentials to start with – it works in almost any climate and is comfortable, waterproof and transitions easily from day to night outfits.

Originally developed as an army coat, the trench has evolved into a chic yet practical coat for women as well and has made many famous appearances:

What to look for when buying a trench coat

1. Good solid seams and stitching

2. Knee-length (so I can wear it over dresses or pants)

3. No-wrinkle fabric (this is a must! I’ve seen so many chic coats turned to wrinkled messes after one ride on the subway). Cotton is the classic fabric but I actually prefer something with a more water-proof coating.

Single- and double-breasted suit comparison

Image via Wikipedia

4. Double-breasted buttons or single-breasted buttons? Double-breasted is more classic and single-breasted is more modern. If you are large busted like me, go for the single-breasted to eliminate bulk on the chest.

Beautiful bow-back trench from pluswomensclothings at Etsy

5. The rear “wow” factor (don’t you just love when someone walks away from you and you notice a great/chic detail you didn’t see before?). A bow along the back, good pleating, contouring seams, a surprise vent, ruffles, etc all add a surprise element to this staple coat.

6. Color. Tan and khaki are the classic choices but a little red trench coat can jazz up a spring or fall wardrobe perfectly.

How to Wear a Trench Coat

Honestly, there is not wrong way to wear a trench coat – if you get one in a neutral shade they pair well with any ensemble. When draped over the shoulders they can even be appropriate for more formal functions. My favorite weekend outfit for grocery shopping and morning walks to the Lake Michigan dog beach is a pair of dark wash jeans, black flats and my tan trench – chic and easy to pull together [when hungover].

Ashley

P.s. Your pup would enjoy a chic trench too! Check out these wonderful ones from RoverDog on Etsy:

The Westerly Trench from Roverdog on Etsy